Four More Years!
What a rollercoaster ride this election season has been! Like many people, I am glad that at last the frenetic jostling for the office of the POTUS has come to an end. In the end, as I fully expected, Obama was re-elected as the president of the United States.
Yesterday morning I went to vote making fully sure that my iPod was fully charged. I knew that there’d be a great turnout so I braced myself for a long line. True to my expectations, there was a long line, but it wasn’t as long as I feared. Perhaps, it was because, like I thought, I had mercifully beaten the early morning rush by people who wanted to get in there early, vote and head off to work. I got in line around 9:45 am with other happy and excited people around.
One very chatty old white woman directly in front of me kept us all talking and laughing as she told us many of her previous election experiences. She was 93 years old but yet she could stand and walk around without aid. She stood with us throughout the 2 hours that it took for us to finish voting. I am still amazed at how strong that elderly white woman was. I remember that there were many times one of the election judges came over to her and kindly inquired if she needed a chair to sit. She smilingly declined, and stood with us all through as she regaled us fantastic stories about her life. I am not going to bore you with her tales anyway.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I got to the voter machine and promptly voted for Obama. I rolled out and came home to relax and wait for others to do the same.
Now, how many of you were on tenterhooks as you nervously waited to see the outcome of the election? I was not one of such people. I patiently saw the whole process through; as a matter of fact, I was one of the people still awake long after Obama had given his victory speech. I can honestly say that I was happy to see that after extensively studying the trends, polls and examining the predictions from Nate Silver, I was thoroughly convinced that Romney was not going to win—and it turned out to be so. Indeed as I have pointed out before, I accurately called the election 6 weeks early!
How about some raw stats then? Obama won about 92-93% of all black votes; about 73% of all Hispanic votes; only about 35% of white votes; he beat Romney in women vote by as much as 11%. Obama garnered about 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206 with 49 states accounted for. All that’s left is Florida with her 29 electoral votes. Chances are that Obama will get these electoral votes as well swelling his ultimate grand total to 332 electoral votes. He got around 50.4% of the popular vote or roughly 60,452,197 votes at the time of this writeup. This figure will increase slightly after the Florida votes are completely accounted for.
It is interesting to note however that Obama got 9 million votes less than what he got in 2008. Could this be because many people were disenchanted with Obama seeing as he has failed in definable ways to favorably impact their lives? Could it be because they became disillusioned with Obama after 4 years saw to it that some of Obama’s numerous campaign promises never materialized? Nevertheless, it is even more surprising to imagine that despite the bitterness of the long campaign, and the incessant chorus from the conservative base to the effect that Romney was going to beat Obama by a landslide (because of the dismal economy), Obama beat Romney in the popular vote and the electoral vote regardless.
The ugly truth is that Romney ran a spectacularly cynical and dishonest campaign. Time and time again, Romney flip-flopped on many issues of the day. It became apparent at some point in the campaign that Romney was simply saying any and everything to get himself elected—principles and records be damned. It might be the reason why many conservatives abstained from voting, or voted libertarian or otherwise. Just think how surprising it is to note that despite the deafening voices we heard during the campaign, proclaiming an imminent election-day Republican tsunami, it turns out in the end that somehow John McCain (with his caribou Barbie running mate) managed to get more votes in 2008 against a popular Obama than Romney did with a politically weakened Obama! There is simply no other way to parse this save to say that Romney had high unfavorables—many people frankly did not like him—least of all after they heard the now infamous 47% remark.
So what have we seen in this election? By running on inclusiveness and unity even in times of great adversity, Team Obama masterfully forged a way to his election triumph. Team Obama knew that with the recession and the
attendant snail-paced economic growth, he would lose the election if it was a referendum on the economy. In all sincerity, his administration’s record has not been terribly impressive even if one might grant that he is an impressive man personally. So, he had to make a strategic move to endear himself to the shifting segments of the American populace—in other words, having noted the changing demographics of the country, he had to make a calculated move to endear himself to the different portions of a fast-changing electorate.
That gamble worked in a big way. He received considerably fewer white votes this time around but scored impressively amongst the 18-30 age group, students, women, blacks, Hispanics, gays, labor and unions, the auto industry, veterans and the elderly etc. The demography of the country was changing and it now appears that no longer can the Republicans hope to win elections just by banking on the collective electoral angst of the white vote. To be competitive in future elections, the conventional wisdom is that the Republicans now have to seriously work hard to draw the youth and minorities into the party in much larger numbers. Otherwise, with these levels of Hispanic and women support for Democrats, the Republicans will invariably continue to experience future election-day woes.
Obama has now written his name into the history books. He is the first African-American president of the United States—a feat magnified once a person fully begins to understand this country’s past shameful legacy of slavery, racism and discrimination. Additionally, in winning a second term in office, he joins a smaller cadre of presidents—14 out of 44 presidents—who have served two or more terms.
All that remains now is to see how well he would govern in his second term. Also, one wishes to see whether the stinging loss suffered by the Republicans might have engendered some serious soul-searching to usher in a season, no matter how briefly, of bipartisan cooperation and an end to gridlock: is this asking for too much perhaps?
Final Observations Before The Election
The protracted 2012 Presidential election campaign season has less than 24 hours to wind up; it is coming to an end. We have seen the fiery exchanges between both campaigns; we have seen that mega-millions were sunk into targeted ad campaigns; we have seen the stump speeches; we have seen memorable moments from the GOP and the DNC conventions; we have seen a very damaging video of Romney in which he basically wrote off 47% of the electorate; we have seen a season of very passionate presidential debates filled with claims and counterclaims; we have seen countless thousands across the states participating in the electoral process by voting early; we have seen an avalanche of surveys and polls striving to correctly determine voter mood and direction; and we have seen the horrifying aftermath of Super-storm Sandy as we draw close to the election day.
As I was surveying the political landscape, I remembered that I made a prediction over a month ago regarding the possible winner of the election. I went ahead in that post to give reasons why I felt that Romney will most likely not win the election. However, in concluding that piece, I made this rejoinder:
It is on the strength of these assessments that I fail to see how Romney will eventually emerge the winner of the 2012 presidential elections. But as we all know, the truth (life) is sometimes stranger than fiction. We have a few weeks left before the country votes and something might still happen which could potentially zero out the scales in Romney’s favor. Until such a cataclysmic event happens, the die is cast against Romney.
Well, well, well…what a difference 6 weeks makes huh?
It is fair to say that a number of situations have tremendously impacted the trajectory of the race. One of such moments was the very first presidential debate. Before the debates, Obama held a narrow but steady lead over Romney in many of the credible polls held in the last days of September. This was at the height of his thoughtless 47% remark; it even seemed like he was losing seriously amongst women voters. Along comes the first debate with Obama and everything changed. Suddenly, Romney surged in the polls overtaking Obama in several polls and looking surprisingly competitive in the battleground states. The dismal effort that Obama put into that first debate was so devastating that many democrats grew nervous as the lead they once enjoyed disappeared overnight—even amongst female voters. I suppose it was the earnest performance that Romney put up as he sought to present himself as the more credible voice on issues concerning the economy and Obama’s embarrassing non-performance that helped to resurrect Romney’s bid for the top job. Seeing him on that stage clobber a dispirited Obama by relentlessly painting a grim picture of the economy and offering himself as a refreshing candidate of change and progress, one could immediately notice how that helped to energize the conservative faithful. Were the country to have voted based on the first debate alone, I daresay that Romney might have won; that would have been the October surprise most political pundits were perennially looking out for.
Fortunately for Team Obama, all was not lost. The vice-presidential debate and the other two presidential debates served to rekindle the fire and optimism that burned in the hearts of the Obama faithful. So, it would appear that after Obama’s belated but forceful performance in the remaining debates, he and Romney were locked in a statistical dead-heat as we approached the last lap of the campaign. This observation has been numerously corroborated by the polls out there that I won’t even bother you with several boring polls which have revealed that the race did tighten especially in the battleground states. What should one now make of the state of the race? Is there a clear front-runner? Has any cataclysmic events happened that might (in some definable fashion) impact the race? Have we seen any reason why my earlier prediction might not stand?
First of all, I am not in any doubt that Obama will still win this election. However, if on Tuesday night we discover that Romney had won the election, then I invite you to consider two things. The first is that the constant barrage of polls we got during the campaign essentially showing Romney polling behind Obama was hopelessly and woefully wrong. This will mean that these projections given by seasoned psephologists were based on faulty data. Frankly this will not be surprising at all. Just think about it—do you realize that many people who are called up on the phone and asked to participate in a survey wherein they are asked to pick between Obama and Romney can and do mislead? It is not altogether difficult to imagine that many people (especially whites) might not want to be seen as racist and thus may say they’d vote for Obama only for them to go into that private voting booth and pull the lever for Romney. It will simply mean that the exit polls as well as other polls which showed Obama doing well in the prized battleground states were essentially incorrect; it would mean that Romney had been enjoying far more muted and silent support than most people actually imagined. This is a worrisome possibility. Could it be that unlike the 2008 elections, many people sincerely liked Obama as a person but frankly thought that Romney would generally do a better job on the economy or on other issues? Could it be that having allowed Obama 4 years that an increasingly moody white majority feel like Obama has failed to deliver on his promises? Whatever the case may be, it is useful to realize now that with the polls as tight as they are, any little thing can fling the election one way or the other.
Secondly, I want to suggest that the storm which ravaged the Northeast might have ironically worked against Obama contrary to what the pundits are suggesting. Sandy, the storm of the century, battered about 20 states on the east coast costing an estimated $50 billion in damages, killing over 70 people and leaving millions of people without power. The pictures of the devastation are gut-wrenching—flooded streets and subway systems, houses washed away, a nuclear power plant blown up, long lines at gas pumps, hospitals working on reserve generators and general scarcity. The idea is that since the news has been dominated by Sandy coverage, and people have relentlessly seen Obama doing his best to lead in a time of cataclysmic disaster—suspending his campaign at the time, huddling with governors and mayors as they mulled over relief options, expediting FEMA and other relevant agencies’ response to the disaster, visiting the affected areas and working cordially with erstwhile political ‘enemies’ a la Chris Christie—the country will once again be enamored by Obama and be thankful that the country had capable leadership in a time of crisis. The political calculation made by the pundits was simple: things may not be perfect now, but you already know Obama and you can trust that he cares and that he will take sensible and responsible steps to lead in times of crisis. One only need remember the Bush administration’s horrible record with Hurricane Katrina to see the point. By comparison, Romney pales into insignificance especially if you remember that during the republican primaries he thought it was a grand idea to scrap FEMA.
Inasmuch as this was a bright calculation, I am persuaded differently. First, it is important to realize that this election is close. As a matter of fact, it is mathematically possible to have a scenario whereby Romney wins the popular vote and loses the election to Obama who won more of the Electoral College votes. Since this possibility is only too real, one can see readily that team Obama would very much want to win both the popular and the Electoral College votes in order to claim a clear, definitive mandate. For this to happen, Obama needs his supporters to come out and come out big. By this logic, it is not just enough to reason that a certain state X has a long democratic voting history and will thus likely vote democratic on Tuesday; Team Obama would want to win even the traditionally democratic states by the widest margins possible. Alas, compared to 2008, there is an enthusiasm gap on the part of democrats.
Now cue Sandy. There is no one who knows anything about voting patterns that does not know that the Northeast region overwhelmingly votes democratic in national or presidential elections. In 2008, Obama virtually swept the Northeast and racked up as many Electoral College votes as possible. This time around, even before the storm ravaged the East Coast, we noticed that the youth and many segments of the population who went for Obama in large numbers were not as motivated to vote as they were in 2008. But the biggest problem that I see is the storm itself and its horrifying aftermath! Many places in the Northeast are only now beginning to recover from the devastation; some were without power since Monday of last week and only just got back power yesterday or today. Many are still without power as we speak. Transportation in many parts of NY and NJ is nonexistent either because the roads are un-motorable or because of the long lines at gas pumps and the consequent rationing. Many people are still trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives; to find food; to find shelter; to find friends or relatives who were also affected by the storm. Frankly, many people are just not thinking about politics and voting right now. If they did not vote early, it is doubtful that they are literally busting their behinds to go to some polling station to cast a vote—at least not when they haven’t found food to eat, or buses or taxis for transportation, or some warm place to lay their heads, or somewhere to charge their electrical or electronic gadgets, or found gas for their cars. Turnout cannot be over-emphasized. Since majority of these would-be voters are democrats, one can see how Mitt Romney can suddenly prove to be very competitive in the Northeastern states. Indeed if care is not taken, he could peel off a state or two from the states affected by Sandy away from the Obama column. That could potentially spell the difference.
If this natural disaster had happened in the Southern and Midwestern states—traditional Republican strongholds—then the pundits suggesting that the storm was a boon for Obama would make more sense. The antipathy to the voting process engendered by the overwhelming sense of privation and despair would at least help to suppress Romney votes in states that traditionally vote republican. Come on, this is not difficult to understand, is it?
Be that as it may, one truth is evident. This election will be decided by the votes in a few toss up states. It may be that ultimately the storm does not prevent Obama from carrying all the Northeastern states that he carried in 2008. In that case, we must once again realize that with Obama conveniently leading Romney in the polls taken in a handful of these critical swing states, it is still the case that Obama is set to win the election on Tuesday.
VP Debate: Ryan vs. Biden
You are probably getting ready for the debate between the current Vice-President Joe Biden and Mitt Romney’s running mate Congressman Paul Ryan, aren’t you? Well, if you are not, you should. In a few short hours, it will kick off in earnest, and millions of Americans will be tuned in to see how this debate goes.
Let us rewind. It was just a week ago and Obama was getting ready for his first nationally televised debate against Mitt Romney. At that time, Obama was clearly leading most (if not all) of the head-to-head polls against Romney especially in the critical swing states. It seemed all hope was lost for the Romney campaign; even some of his campaign staffers and big money donors began to take to the hills. Something dramatic desperately needed to happen to infuse his campaign with energy and optimism—maybe an unfortunate gaffe from the president; or perhaps devastating foreign policy news—whatever that was going to be no one could have easily guessed that it was going to be the debates.
And who would have guessed anyway? It was not like Obama had, prior to last week’s debate, shown himself to be helpless at debates. Besides, the punditocracy reminded us that these debates seldom change hearts and minds therefore they may not have a huge visible effect on a hardened fiercely and firmly partisan viewing public.
Somehow the prognostications have turned out wrong. Not only did Romney win, but he won big and with it came a tremendous boon for his campaign. Owing to Obama’s dismal performance, the polls are now currently showing that Mitt Romney has closed the yawning gap, and is surprisingly leading Obama in some of the polls! What a difference one debate makes, eh? Yes, Obama’s disastrous outing cannot be exaggerated for even by the most conservative estimates, the Romney campaign experienced a 5-8 point swing. The figure may even be higher amongst women. It is essentially game on now.
I have read various post-mortems of the debate and one thing seems to be a common thread in all of them—Obama was far too detached and perhaps too meek to take Romney to task on what seemed at the time to be transparent volte-face with regards to Romney’s previous policy positions. It was indeed as though Obama forgot that it was a debate and not chit-chat. Perhaps, he was far too uncomfortable with the whole debate undertaking and lacked the fire in the belly to make the crucial point that Romney was nakedly pivoting on the issues. Perhaps, he was told to be simply presidential and to protect his lead by not coming across as disagreeable. Whatever the strategy was, it clearly did not work.—so I am going to guess that we shall see something remarkably different when Joe Biden and Paul Ryan step out to the stage tonight.
And there can be no overestimating the work that the vice-president has before him tonight. Essentially, he has to staunch the bleeding of the Obama campaign as well as re-ignite the belief and passion of the democratic base that their vision for the country is better than anything Romney and Paul can offer. Biden has to be on the defensive to answer and clarify essential differences between Obama and Romney—something that Obama seemingly avoided or hesitated to do in his first debate when it mattered—but he also has to play offense and be seen and understood to do so. In short, he has to win this debate or at least be perceived to tie it. Anything less will spell disaster for the Obama campaign as it will strongly cast doubts in the minds of people on the question of whether this current administration still has the right vision and persuasion to steer the ship of state.
Paul Ryan is still largely an unknown quantity to most people outside the beltway. He is the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a senior member of the House Ways and Means committee; he has been in Washington D.C for over 10 years. He is seen as a ‘numbers’ kind of guy and extremely wonkish on fiscal policy. Can he be able to translate the technical aspects of the discussion or answer pointed debate questions in a language that is easy to understand—one that can fit in the allotted debate time constraints and moreover appeal to the millions that will be watching on TV? That might be his greatest challenge. Unquestionably, he has considerable chops and experience in fiscal, budget or economic matters but how versatile is he on foreign policy? This remains to be seen also. If he can capitalize on his experience and can match Biden toe-to-toe on foreign policy matters despite the possible perception that foreign policy is beyond his ken, he will prove a tougher opponent than Sarah Palin was for Biden 4 years ago.
Both men have a huge task for them in this debate. For Ryan, he has to show that he is not only knowledgeable on the issues but that he is also prepared on day 1 to be the president if it ever came to that. This was generally perceived to be Sarah Palin’s downfall in the 2008 election. He also has the unenviable task of guarding all the precious gains that Romney made last week—a lead that can rapidly evaporate if Biden is able to establish unpreparedness and inconsistency of message with respect to Paul Ryan in the minds of the public.
Biden on his part has to get the wind behind Obama’s campaign sails once more by demonstrating in an abundantly clear fashion that he has a thorough grasp of the facts and the figures. He also has to paint the opposition as not only wavering and unreliable in their overall message, but ultimately as ill-equipped to perform them. He basically has to paint a choice for the masses—a choice that leaves one in no doubt as to how the Romney-Ryan administration will hurt the economy locally and worsen the US foreign policy and actions internationally.
Presidential Debates: Romney vs. Obama
Question: Gov. Romney, you’ve said that you have a better vision and a better grasp of the economic issues facing our country. Please can you explain to our audience how you propose to bring down the national debt that is now in excess of $16 trillion by means of more tax cuts for the wealthy?
Romney: I can, but I don’t want to bore you with the math…..
Question: I understand that the issue may be difficult but can you break it down for us? Can you explain your tax code? If you are going to close some tax loopholes and cut down spending, what programs are you going to slash in your bid to stimulate the economy?
Romney: You know what? I know I have the better plan. You can read the details on my website www.mittromney.com. As for the rest of that question, uhmm see me after the election…
(For starters, the above discussion is a parody of a possible scenario; it is completely fictional.)
Ever since the Republican National Convention, from which Mitt Romney’s Campaign got a short bump in the polls, he has been continuously trailing Obama in the polls since his infamous 47% remark with about 35 days left before the Election. Now, there are 3 presidential debates left. Romney has to use these debates to reverse his misfortunes. He has to use these debates to show to the over 50-60 million Americans that will be watching, and millions from around the world, that he will be the better person to fix the economic issues facing the country.
Now, Mitt Romney is a seasoned and accomplished debater. All you have to do is just look at his past debate reels to see how prepared he usually is for debates—with a lot of zingers for his opponents. We also know that he is getting ready with a rich arsenal of zingers for Obama as well. He needs to utterly dominate this debate, and show how his vision for the country would be a refreshing departure from Obama’s policies. More importantly, he’ll need to be able to explain his tax code or revenue generation formula in some better detail when pressed or he may find it difficult to beat a certain narrative that is now currently making the rounds in the media according to which he is all promise but ‘no specifics’.
Obama has the most to lose from these debates. He is currently leading in most of the national polls especially in the critical battleground states. He simply has to avoid speaking a costly political gaffe, and hope that there is no October Surprise that may arise so late in the game. He has to come to these debates fully ready to defend his record, and to project himself as the more reliable figure in these harsh economic times. If he allows Romney to clobber him in these debates, or if he appears too cautious as to not project a vision of competence, or worse if he fumbles with his facts and figures, we can see Romney easily reverse the gains that Obama has made since the end of Bill Clinton’s famous speech.
Tomorrow, the politically minded part of the American populace (with all of America’s trenchant punditocracy) will be tuned in to the various media stations and paying serious attention to see who they’ll go with for the next 4 years. Have you made up your mind yet?
Romney Will Lose The Elections
Given the events of the last two weeks, anyone can see that Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency of the United States is in serious danger of fatal derailment. If he eventually loses the election, I am going to identify the shocking sequence of mutilating strokes he dealt to himself and to his campaign over the last 2 weeks as the primary cause of his defeat. There are already many republicans who cannot understand and quite frankly openly wonder why Romney had been struggling in the polls to convincingly beat a president they have universally acknowledged as the worst president ever.
There is simply no easy way to slice this: given the suboptimal state of the economy, the degree of vilification that Obama has received from Republican quarters, and the active push by targeted ads financed by Romney’s rich sponsors and donors, it was simply baffling to notice how Romney had consistently found it difficult to spring forward in this hotly-contested race. Why, someone might ask, is Romney not handily beating Obama amongst likely voters if this election truly was a referendum on the performance of the Obama administration? Please hold that thought.
As if Romney wasn’t having a hard enough time convincing many Americans that he should be given the nation’s top job, the events of the past few weeks have all but put a nail on the coffin of Romney’s presidential aspirations. Indeed, as things stand now, this election is all but over. Let me take the remainder of this brief write-up to give reasons why I do not think that Romney will win come November 6:
A – Reminiscent of John McCain’s hasty and uncoordinated over-reaction in ‘suspending’ his campaign at a time when America stared at a crisis, [thereby prompting wide-mouthed disbelief and concern over his emotional state or his ability to perform under pressure] Mitt Romney has unwittingly generated serious concern over his ability to perform in times of great national or international uproar. Only last week when the nation was quietly mourning the loss of an ambassador, several embassy personnel, countless innocent lives, and the breaching or burning of American embassies or consulates in an orgy of violence that has erupted all over the middle East, Romney chose that singular moment of subdued national outrage to try to score a cheap political point. Without waiting to get the full picture or the facts in the case, he mistook a tweet emerging from a US embassy under siege, as the official statement of the Obama White House and launched off into a tasteless self-serving rant about how Obama (and his administration by extension I suppose) was supposedly apologizing to the Muslim world about American values; how Obama was not projecting strength and how his own administration would undoubtedly have risen to the challenge posed by the events that were yet unfolding.
Apparently, what happened was that some Coptic Christian Egyptian-American posing as an Israeli to secure funds had made a disparaging video about Islam mockingly titled “The Innocence of Muslims” a few months back. A 14-minute trailer could be found on YouTube. The poorly produced and directed documentary (if at all it could be called a documentary) features actors with American accents and since the producer of the film was also resident in the US, the Arab world took that as sufficient casus belli to rail against American interests in the region. The aftermath? Scores died and several American embassies faced mob assaults all over the Middle East. It was at this moment of heightened national anxiety and concern that Romney chose to launch a baseless criticism. The fact was that the tweet he thought represented the Obama administration actually came from the embassy facing down hordes of angry Muslims. The official Obama statement on the matter sought to give avenues for peace even when condemning in strong terms the attacks on American embassies and embassy personnel. It furthermore re-iterated the commitment to freedom of speech. Frankly, a lot of Americans especially the undecided were able to see in glaring detail that Gov. Romney would say just about anything if he thinks it would get him elected even if that means going against the conventions of good taste. He was roundly criticized for his thoughtless remarks, but rather than apologize for his hastiness, he simply doubled down on his earlier statements. Brilliant strategy!
B – As if that was not enough headaches for a campaign quickly spiraling out of control, a video was leaked showing what Romney really thinks about 47% of the electorate. It turns out that in a secret, private fundraiser organized for Mitt Romney, one of the people in attendance had wondered why Romney wasn’t more popular and more visible than he currently was, and wanted to know what the appropriate response should be to people who still could not find Romney appealing enough as to vote for him. In a remarkable moment of candor, Romney coolly stated his indifference to 47% of Americans whom he said would never vote for him anyway because they were tax-nonpaying, handout-seeking, Obama-loving lackeys afflicted with some form of victim mentality and who doubtlessly think that government exists solely to cater to their needs. Shocking as that characterization of nearly half of the electorate is, the simple truth of the matter however is that Romney was right. There are indeed people who will never vote for him no matter what. The problem however is that that sort of frank assessment is not something you would expect out of the mouth of someone campaigning for the presidency. In writing off people who are or were former supporters of Obama, he is effectively shutting himself off from thousands of people who might have voted for Obama in 2008 (people who would fit the description he gave) but who for whatever reason best known to them might have decided that Obama was not the change they hoped for or imagined.
You see, it is now becoming increasingly difficult to construct a scenario where Romney wins campaigning only for the votes of the 53% he imagines are willing to give him a fair shot. Statisticians and public relations personnel fully realize this. The odds are heavily stacked against him if he thinks that he will be elected on the backs of rich, white conservatives alone. This is because the statement that was credited to him strongly reinforces the view that he is an unfeeling and emotionally disconnected shill of the big business or corporate class, and that if his ideas were fully known, would pose a disaster to more than the 47% he imagines are ideologically attached to Obama’s hip. They will in fact affect a great deal of the people (like seniors, veterans, failed small business owners etc) who might ordinarily have looked upon him more favorably.
C – Lest we forget, presidential elections in the United States are not decided by the popular vote but by something called the Electoral College vote. Now, I am convinced that Obama will definitely win the popular vote i.e the number of people that voted for him nationally will be more than the number that voted for Romney. All it will take are a few of the big and densely populated states like California and New York for instance massively voting for Obama to see the wide gap he will gather by the time all the votes have been cast. Fortunately for Romney, America uses a ‘weighted’ Electoral College method which I shall not start explaining in detail here. In a nutshell, every state has a specified number of electors which a presidential candidate will win if he wins the popular vote in that state. These are apportioned in such a way as to make the votes of people in the American suburbs and hinterland matter. The winner of the election thus becomes the man who first surpasses 270 electoral votes gotten by adding up all the Electoral College votes apportioned to each of the individual states. The use of the Electoral College method means that it is possible for Obama to get the higher number of votes and still lose an election. This is the reason why you would hardly see Obama campaigning in states that are traditionally democratic; or hardly see Romney campaigning in states that are traditionally republican. In effect, it means that both the Obama and Romney campaigns will be focused on those battleground states with a somewhat equal balance of republican or democratic voters hoping to tilt the voting scale in their favor. These are the states that are inundated with millions of dollars of targeted negative ads.
However, a critical look at the Election map shows that Romney is trailing Obama in some of these key states. In other words, Romney’s path to the Whitehouse is ALREADY tougher than Obama’s. Romney would need to basically sweep through these critical states if he wants the Electoral College votes in his corner to surpass those in Obama’s corner—and there is no suggestion on the ground that such a scenario is shaping up. With Obama suddenly jumping ahead out as much as 5-7% in national polls this week, it becomes even more difficult to see how Romney will flip enough votes to effectively win many of the battleground states which Obama won in 2008. The math is just not looking favorable for Romney at this point—and if Obama is able to distance himself from any and all costly political scandals, it is downright impossible to see how Romney would win in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, and New Hampshire to get enough Electoral College votes to get him to the magical 270.
D – Despite the RNC’s strenuous efforts to humanize Romney, the undisputable fact is that Romney still has a perception chasm battling his efforts at becoming more appealing to most people. Some view his Mormon faith with something akin to scorn and derision; many are still upset and rightly suspicious of Romney’s decision to hide his tax returns from previous years from the public. What is he hiding? In addition, a lot of people who decry foreign tax shelters also find that they cannot reconcile their views with a president who has hidden most of his wealth in the Cayman Islands and in Swiss accounts. It certainly does not sound like the actions of someone who has much faith in America. There is no denying that he is an extremely wealthy man—and that has perhaps spawned the perception that Romney is altogether emotionally and psychologically far-removed from the plight of the suffering masses. This is a thorny perceptions issue, and he has battled it vainly for a long time. Indeed, there is no shortage of republicans who, regardless of their overwhelming disapproval of Obama, are nevertheless indifferent or even perhaps harshly critical of Mitt Romney. If some members of Romney’s party can be hostile to him based on their own negative perceptions, I leave you to ponder how much less appealing he would be to Independents.
It is on the strength of these assessments that I fail to see how Romney will eventually emerge the winner of the 2012 presidential elections. But as we all know, the truth (life) is sometimes stranger than fiction. We have a few weeks left before the country votes and something might still happen which could potentially zero out the scales in Romney’s favor. Until such a cataclysmic event happens, the die is cast against Romney.
Tired Of The Debates Yet?
Am I the only one who is increasingly tired of these endless republican primary debates? I am convinced I cannot be the only one—the reasons seem fairly obvious to a great many. It just seems like every few days there is another debate on TV pitting these 8 or 9 presidential contenders in some unfortunate American auditorium, and the same boring and predictable talking points are rehashed ad nauseam. Why do they continue to bring us these televised borefests? Your guess is as good as mine, but I am dangerously close to tuning them all out.
The problem, as I have come to discover it, is that despite the shrill calls for Obama’s removal from power, coming from conservative quarters, the GOP has simply not found the perfect (or reasonably close to perfect) candidate that would energize their base and pose a great challenge to Obama. The candidate that would embody all the lofty ideals of the Republican Party (including the Tea Party of course) has just not materialized, even if we agree that the series of economically depressing news have so conspired to make the current incumbent look far weaker than he ordinarily should.
But why is it proving very difficult to find a candidate that would handily command the zeal and hope of the right wing? Why has Obama continued to enjoy a much higher nation-wide poll rating than any of the current contenders even in the midst of sobering economic news? Why is there still a significant degree of hesitation to join the ranks of those who are now thoroughly disillusioned by Obama? – Or by his spectacular incapacity to make good on all the promises and hopes that catapulted him to the White House?
The fact is that despite what we have seen in recent times on the economic front, there is a palpable dissatisfaction with the seeming inability of these GOP campaigns to enunciate a plan that is significantly better than what is currently obtainable under Obama. Obama may not be the ideal president, and he may have gotten a few things wrong with his policies, but the people seeking to replace him have not credibly laid out serious plans that would get the country out of the economic backwoods. It is not enough for these candidates to shout campaign trail slogans and afterwards direct interested persons to some obscure website where the full details of their plan might have been spelled out.
It is in this regard that I must commend Herman Cain for at least attempting to present something for people to mull over (albeit that upon close examination, his plan falls to pieces). Perhaps, rather than bring us the same boring debates where all we hear is “Obama is bad, Obama is worse than bad. Elect me and I’ll fix everything. You just trust me because I sincerely believe in Reagan and his policies”, these candidates should start speaking more robustly about the ways they really hope to be better than Obama at fixing this ailing economy. The time for the talking points are now gone. In case they haven’t noticed, anyone that has listened to a few of these boring presidential debates will unfailing point out that at this stage they all sound hopelessly the same.
But if the problem of the Republicans was merely the lack of a coherent central message, or the inability to present a credible alternative, I daresay that would have perhaps been more forgivable. Sadly, with each passing day, the current cast of contenders (by their own unique actions or inactions) continues to mesmerize the traumatized public with their unique self-combustion. From questions about Newt Gingrich’s injudicious and perhaps unscrupulous spending of campaign funds to Michele Bachmann’s ill-advised anti-vaccine rants and her unique campaign staffing troubles, the people are treated to severely embarrassing and unflattering gaffes that ought to give anyone pause.
What shall we say then of all these women that are now boldly accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment? What shall we say of his bumbling, unpersuasive, gaffe-ridden attempts at damage control? Little more need be said about his utter inability or unpreparedness to give some coherent answer on a foreign policy question concerning Libya. Or should one assume that he was so preoccupied with stopping the sexual allegation steam roller that he had devoted all his energies into presenting answers that were as plausible as they are non-contradictory—to the point that he forgot to prepare himself for questions of a different sort? Or what indeed can anyone say of Rick Perry’s unfortunate but complete memory meltdown in a debate? In fact, the more you looked at the speeches and debate performances of the Texas governor in recent times, the more you wondered why anyone thought he was capable of independently expressing a thoughtful answer to any pressing national questions. You got the impression, if I am not mistaken, that all he was good at is reciting the lines he had been coached by his staffers, hoping that he still had a bit of southern charm and charisma to command your vote.
These unfortunate campaign fiascos detract from the overall appeal of the GOP candidates. At once, it presents a tale of disorganization and indiscipline; it makes people hesitate and ponder on the wisdom of trading Obama for people who have so-far proven themselves incapable of managing a campaign. As a sidebar, you have to wonder loudly why Ron Paul continues to labor under the illusion that he’d ever be nominated the Party’s flag-bearer despite his glaring libertarian preachments. He may ideologically be more conservative than liberal, but his position on a number of issues are undoubtedly frightening to the GOP faithful. You have to imagine that the only way Ron Paul gets the nod is if the current cast of GOP contenders woke up tomorrow and all evolved positions and talking points that lie ideologically left of his position—a remote possibility indeed. Also, it doesn’t take much to see that Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum simply do not have the name recognition, gravitas or the campaign size and funds to effectively compete and as such can only hope to be selected for the VP spot.
In the end, it may be that the only candidate that realistically stands the chance of being nominated, barring any future spontaneous act of self-destruction, is Mitt Romney. Yes, he may have that healthcare issue to explain over and over; yes he may be a Mormon (i.e. not an evangelical Christian); yes he may sound somewhat unconvincing when touting his conservative credentials (precisely because he doesn’t come across as Tea Party material); – but his discipline and consistency may be his greatest asset. In the end, it just may be that despite the fact that Romney doesn’t overwhelmingly excite the Republican field, he is the only one with the consistency, discipline, debating skills, foreign policy mastery, and the sufficient chops on the economy to mount a convincing challenge to Obama—thus necessitating that the GOP faithful hold their noses as it were to nominate him. This is of course based on the presumption that the GOP hopes to beat Obama next year by any means necessary. However, the 2012 November presidential election is still a long way from now; indeed anything can happen before then to alter the present configurations. In any case, we are sure that Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are never going to be part of any future reconfigurations.
- Poll: GOP race up for grabs in Iowa – Mason City Globe Gazette (globegazette.com)
Salut, South Sudan!
Another country emerges:
JUBA, South Sudan — South Sudan celebrated its first day as an independent nation Saturday, raising its flag before tens of thousands of cheering citizens elated to reach the end of a 50-year struggle.
U.S. President Barack Obama called the day a new dawn after the darkness of war, while visiting dignitaries offered both congratulations and prodding for South Sudan and its former ruler, Sudan, to avoid a return to conflict over serious and unresolved disagreements.
“The eyes of the world are now on us,” said South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who was inaugurated during a scorching midday ceremony. Kiir stressed that the people of South Sudan must advance their country together, and unite as countrymen first, casting aside allegiances to the dozens of tribes that reside here.
Saturday meant that South Sudan and its black tribesmen would for the first time be linked politically with sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya and Uganda are already laying strong economic ties with their northern neighbor, an oil-rich country that may one day ship its oil to a Kenyan port, instead of through the pipelines controlled by Khartoum.
“From today our identity is southern and African, not Arabic and Muslim,” read a hand-painted sign that one man carried as he walked through the crowds.
South Sudan first celebrated its new status with a a raucous street party at midnight. At a packed midday ceremony, the speaker of parliament read a proclamation of independence as the flag of Sudan was lowered and the flag of South Sudan was raised, sparking wild cheers from a crowd tens of thousands strong.
“Hallelujah!” one resident yelled, as other onlookers wiped away tears.
The U.S. and Britain, among others, announced their recognition of South Sudan as a sovereign nation.
“A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn,” Obama said in a statement. “These symbols speak to the blood that has been spilled, the tears that have been shed, the ballots that have been cast, and the hopes that have been realized by so many millions of people.”
South Sudan’s story is particularly touching when you consider the senseless loss of millions of lives for an issue that could have been decided as simply and as peacefully as it eventually was. In the end, it all paid off. Those lives, in a way, have not been lost in vain.
There is a lesson here for other maltreated, bullied, shackled and impoverished but vocal ethnic minorities in many African countries. The lesson to pick here is that the tyrannical ruling majority ethnic group will never give you the much sought-after economic emancipation nor the political freedom that you crave as long as the prevailing status quo continues to disproportionately favor the ruling class or as the case may be, the dominant ethnic group. To achieve economic and political freedom from the oppressive clutches of the ruling majority, and to exercise your right to self-determination, divested of the shackles of the prevailing European imperial contraptions, which were so inelegantly forged in the dark past, your kinsmen must be ready to shed their blood and lay down their lives for it. Only a sustained struggle against the tyrannical impulses of a close-minded majority would suffice to induce a rethink of their hardened positions.
After 50 years of struggle, on July 9, 2011, you now have your freedom and your own country South Sudan. I salute you all but this is just the beginning. Hopefully, with your oil-wealth, you will set upon the task of an aggressive nation-building with the requisite degree of urgency that it demands. One only hopes that what would eventually emerge would have the semblance of democracy, and that the long-suffering people of South Sudan will not once again find themselves under the jackboots of consanguineous overlords.
Egypt On The Precipice
For the past few days, the mass media has been awash with reports of the current civil unrest going on in Egypt. Despite the undemocratic actions of Hosni Mubarak’s government in shutting down the internet as well as the telecommunications sector, Egyptians have found ways, and are still finding ways to convey the scenes and events going on in Egypt to a captivated global audience. The clip above is just one of the videos filtering out of Cairo showing what appears to be a massive populist uprising against Mubarak and his government.
When Obama gave his speech, in Cairo, to the Arab world, shortly after assuming office, there were many people who underestimated the power and import of that speech. I remember that when I saw the passionate, rousing and warm welcome he received from the youths gathered in that auditorium, that Obama may have unwittingly ignited fires that would soon capture the hearts and minds of the Arab world. It was just the perfect message to the Arab world—tired and discontented as they were with Bush’s unilateralist interventionism. The skeptical wing of American punditocracy mocked Obama’s speech and his efforts. How indeed could he hope to reverse decades of misrule, governmental non-transparency, and a generalized distrust of the US with one overly-optimistic speech? Well, the chicken has come home to roost.
If you can remember, it wasn’t long ago that the world witnessed another populist revolution in Tunisia. The masses revolted and overthrew their government. I’ll also invite you to cast your mind back to 2009 when there was another powerful people-backed uprising in Iran against the rule of Iran’s Shiite clerics. The seasonal clashes between Israel and the Palestinians seem to have toned down in favor of a more peaceful path towards the solution. Here and there, you read about the increasing boldness of pro-democracy opposition groups throughout most parts of the Arab world including Saudi Arabia. I’ll make bold to say, (some may well write it off as an immature or wishful analysis) that there seems to be a crystallizing narrative in the world of Arab politics: we are beginning to witness an increasing and more determined push by Arab people for transparency and accountability in government; a sustained demand for a pro-citizen government that would show by their actions a real commitment and dedication to alleviate the problems and injustices suffered by the average Arab at the hands of a corrupt and sometimes dictatorial elite class.
So, here we are, watching amazing scenes from Egypt as thousands of protesters take to the streets to demand the ouster of Hosni Mubarak’s government. How should all peace-loving citizens of the world situate and analyze these current happenings? More importantly, what should the Obama administration be doing with regards to these events? Needless to say, Egypt is a critical force to reckon with in Arab geopolitics, and so the statements of the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, as well as that of other Western diplomats would be examined carefully. What message could the Obama administration (after full consultation with her Middle East allies) give so as to de-escalate the tensions there?
Hosni Mubarak, and his government, it must be pointed out, enjoy the support of the United States and Israel. This was because Mubarak chose to continue and maintain the peace treaty that his predecessor President Anwar Sadat signed with the Israelis—a move that much infuriated the rest of the Arab World, and one for which Egypt was temporarily suspended from the Arab League. It should also be recalled that when the US sought allies in the Middle East for the Gulf War of 1991, Hosni’s Egypt was there.
From the foregoing, you might be led to think that since successive US presidents and their administrations have dealt favorably with Hosni Mubarak, there must be something respectable or even mildly democratic about the government of Mr. Mubarak. Think about it: Egypt receives billions of dollars in aid every year from the United States. The bilateral relation between the two countries is in such good shape that the US also routinely sells arms or military technology to Mubarak’s Egypt. Thirty years of diplomatic relations with Israel is enough to convince many Israelis of Hosni’s commitment to that treaty—so, it really cannot be overemphasized how necessary it was for the US and Israel to have Mr. Mubarak cling tenaciously to power.
Nevertheless, it has become imperative to dispassionately assess Mr. Mubarak and his government; it has become of utmost importance to read the handwriting on the wall. Egypt, contrary to what you might have expected, from its coddling by Western powers, is very far from being a democratic state. A dispassionate analysis would indict the Egyptian government of gross negligence with respect to human and civil rights; it would decry the repressive police state and its penchant for marshalling the state’s instruments of force and aggression against pro-democracy activists as well as Islamic opposition forces; it would castigate the government’s shambolic efforts at boosting the Egyptian economy despite the massive influx of US dollars in aid or the nullification of around $20 billion-worth of debt; it would excoriate the government’s unwillingness to usher in democratic reforms; and finally lambaste Mr. Mubarak for his corrupt meddling with the electoral process and his abject refusal to relinquish power. This is exactly the way the average Egyptian sees this government—an incompetent, repressive, anti-democratic lackey for foreign interests. It is therefore hardly surprising to witness the vehemence and doggedness of this nascent revolution.
At any rate, anyone can see that the US and her allies in the region, while recognizing the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people, are not too eager to call for the resignation of Mubarak. Mr. ElBaradei, a Nobel Laureate and many opposition groups have clearly called for a regime change. Their wishes are unmistakable—they want a regime change by all means necessary. They want Mubarak gone and fresh elections to determine the future government of Egypt. However, the US and her friends in the region are wary of a scenario in which honoring the wishes of the masses results in an Islamic hard-line, perhaps extremist faction of Mubarak’s opposition to gain prominence or to snatch the seat of power. A delicate international situation thus begins to unfold.
It is not clear that Mubarak plans on vacating his office any time soon; also it doesn’t appear that this popular uprising is losing steam—at least, as far as I can tell, the army and the police have not yet been instructed to forcefully beat back the protestors. Washington wants a scenario where demonstrations would be non-violent; where Mubarak would conduct free and fair elections or to cosmetically brush up and change aspects of his regime. If that proves impossible, Washington wants a scenario where Mubarak could be persuaded to step aside only if the US could reasonably influence the process so as not to facilitate the ascension into power of anti-Western, anti-Israeli, and anti-American hardliners.
Will the democratic yearnings of the Egyptian people to be free of the repressive boots of Mubarak’s government eventually triumph? Will Mubarak’s 30-year rule come to an end? That remains to be seen. It is the height of hypocrisy to sing the praises and merits of democracy to the Arab world and then turn away if there are indications that such transparent obedience to the true aspirations of sections of the Arab world would germinate leadership that is intransigently opposed to America’s self-interests. All genuine lovers of freedom and democracy should stand shoulder to shoulder with the Egyptian people at this time at this time. If the Egyptians succeed in divesting themselves of the shackles of a corrupt and repressive government, it will significantly mark the birth pangs of democracy; yes it will usher in a wave of progressive hysteria and a populist government which will be copied in other parts of the Middle East.
State Of The Union
Here is the 2011 state of the union address given by President Barack Obama.
And here is the full text of the video
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner.
(Applause.) And as we mark this occasion, we’re also mindful of the empty chair in this chamber, and we pray for the health of our
colleague — and our friend — Gabby Giffords. (Applause.)
It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.
But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater — something more consequential than party or political preference.